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Those meddling kids: The Bravely Default kids are jerks

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Promoted from our community blogs!

[For our first promotion from the September Blogger's Wanted prompt, "Those meddling kids," UsurpMyProse puts the kids from Bravely Default under the microscope and rips them a new one. Don't believe his vile lies about fairies, though. Want to gush about your favorite kid heroes or how you'd dangle them over a pit of boiling lava? Get to blogging!  - Pixie The Fairy]

Tiz Arrior, Agnès Oblige, Edea Lee, and Ringabel are the worst.

A few weeks back I decided to finally dig into Bravely Default -- 2014’s best JRPG of 1994 -- and while I’m enamored with the game’s pop-up book aesthetic, engaging spin on turn-based combat, and highly customizable and fashion-conscious job system, I’ve spent the last 50 hours of playtime desperately wanting to crash my party’s airship into the sun.

Considering it’s an attempt to lovingly update SNES-era classics for a modern age, I expected Bravely Default to boast protagonists as memorable and charming as the heroes of Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI. So it was frankly a little disappointing when I was met with a leading quartet even more self-absorbed and nihilistic than the cast of Seinfeld. Throw in their fairy sidekick as a Danny DeVito stand-in, and you’ve got a group of unlikable bastards that could even give the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang a run for their money.

Self-righteous moppets are a staple of JRPGs, so what is it about these four snot-nosed Warriors of Light that I find so detestable? How are these meddlesome kids any worse than every other band of adolescents inexplicably tasked with saving the world? Well, to start...

(SUPER DUPER MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!)

They’re sociopathic serial killers who murder people for their jobs

Call me old fashioned, but I’m of the opinion that sort of behavior should be frowned upon.

One of the biggest components of Bravely Default’s battle system is assigning your characters jobs that bestow unique abilities and special moves. Everyone gets a primary job and a supporting one, allowing you to mix and match to create some interesting combinations, like singing pirates or monks who can manipulate time. You acquire these jobs by defeating nefarious characters who already possess them, in what I can only assume is a thinly-veiled commentary on the cruel fate of all our professional lives, in which the middle management positions we’ve all worked so hard for will one day be taken from us by a bunch of fresh-faced usurpers straight out of college.

Thing is, you don’t just defeat these characters. You murder them, and pry the job-granting magic jewel off their cold, dead bodies. And since the game’s story necessitates playing through the same plot points over and over, you murder characters repeatedly. In some cases, these rematch fights are optional, meaning it’s an especially huge dick move to go out of your way to kill the same poor incompetent villains twice over.

While four teenagers roaming the countryside killing people for jobs sounds like some kind of intern revenge fantasy come to life, what’s particularly worrisome is the complete lack of remorse displayed by the game’s supposed “heroes.” There’s never a moment’s pause that shows any of them reflecting on the devastating consequences of taking another human life, but there is plenty of talk about how Ringabel, the party’s amnesiac, womanizing rogue, totally wants to bang chicks.

At one point, and I am not making this up, the entire party witnesses two little girls claw each other to death over an enchanted hair band, and then immediately after have a discussion about how tired Ringabel is from carrying around a girl’s purse all night. This is a group of people that spends an hour freaking out over a bikini that’s too sexy, and all of five seconds expressing grief over hearing that 100,000 soldiers died from a chemical weapon. I’ve seen more consideration for human life in three seasons of Hannibal, and that’s a show that had a totem pole built out of severed body parts.

Their primary motivating factor is a suspicious as fuck fairy

Okay, so these young adventurers don’t bat an eye when it comes to taking out anyone who stands in their way. They must have a good reason for such merciless conviction, right?

Agnès, the hyper-religious priestess, is battling an empire that seeks to wipe out her faith. Tiz, the cookie-cutter boy hero from a small town, is trying to undo the disastrous cataclysm that destroyed his village and claimed his whole family. Edea, the daughter of the evil empire’s emperor, realizes the horrors her father has inflicted on the world, and seeks to right his wrongs. And Ringabel is there to, I don’t know, remind us of the ever-present and crushing effects of misogyny.

Those are some (mostly) understandable character motivations, right? Except, none of them really play a factor in the group’s primary objective of fixing the world’s four all-powerful elemental crystals, which have been corrupted by their enemy, the vaguely fascist sounding Duchy of Eternia. Instead, their quest is driven entirely by their fairy companion telling them where to go and what to do. A fairy named Airy.

I’m sorry, but what the fuck? As the plot progresses, it becomes clear that Airy isn’t being upfront about what saving the crystals is going to accomplish and, much to everyone’s shock, it turns out doing so will actually bring about the end of the world instead of preventing it. Surprise, surprise, Airy is not your typical irritating, Navi-esque helper, and is really the servant of a malevolent god. She’s been taking advantage of these four idiots’ massive hero complexes across multiple dimensions in order to trick them into using the crystals to awaken her apocalyptic master.

How is this something revealed in the game’s closing acts, and not figured out in the first five seconds? Haven’t any of these rubes read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? All fairies are malicious, manipulative pricks. Especially a fairy named Airy. If a guy came up to me and introduced himself as Uman Man, then told me he needed my help saving the world, I’d be double-fisting mace into that dude’s eyes and calling the cops so fast it’d make your head spin.

Ringabel is a creep

Multiple homicides and accidentally causing Armageddon aside, Agnès and Tiz’s biggest sin is that they’re about as boring as two slices of plain toast, which you can’t really fault them for. And Edea is amusing in small doses, despite the whole forsaking everyone she’s ever known and loved because a fairy told her to do a thing.

But Ringabel is a douchenozzle of the highest degree.

The swaggering, womanizing rogue is an unfortunate trope that will outlive us all, but these days it’s usually presented with a modicum of undercutting commentary on just how disgusting it is, or is at the very least played by Chris Pratt so we’re incapable of hating the character entirely. This is even done in Bravely Default -- the commentary thing, not the Chris Pratt thing, though that would have been awesome -- in the game’s Red Mage character, who comes off at first blush as a suave lady killer, but is in actuality a terrible monster who drugs women and locks them in his basement.

Ringabel’s heinous behavior, however, is never given such much needed scrutiny. He is simply a bro who is down to fuck, and will remind you that he is down to fuck at every conceivable opportunity.

Battling a two-faced demon dog that breathes fire and ice? Ringabel is down to fuck. Witnessing Agnès's best friend being slaughtered before their very eyes? Ringabel is down to fuck. Saving orphans from slave labor inside a mythril mine? Oh, you best believe Ringabel is down to fuck. I’m not exaggerating when I say every second line of dialogue out of this jerk’s mouth is about the fickleness of women’s hearts or about how many hot girls a town has.

Ringabel’s smarmy personality becomes all the more infuriating when you learn that before losing his memory he was the dark knight Alternis Dim, a gravelly-voiced antagonist whose every encounter with your party consists of him creepily obsessing over Edea before trying to kill everyone. So, essentially, you have a main character who is such a tool that when he lost all recollection of his previous life, his natural instinct was to become an even bigger tool.

Fuck this guy, and fuck the pompadour he rode in under.

They’re pretty much everything that’s wrong with teenagers

To its credit, Bravely Default seems to recognize the reality of what would happen if the fate of the world was entrusted to a bunch of hormonal, flighty, hopelessly naïve adolescents -- they would absolutely muck it up. Teenagers are, for the most part, awful. Just horrible. There’s a reason they’re not granted any positions of actual power or responsibility, and that’s because if they were, you’d get something akin to Joffrey Baratheon chopping off Ned Stark’s head and torturing women with a crossbow.

Or, y’know, four idealistic nitwits inadvertently bringing about the destruction of all creation.

I mean, I haven’t gotten so old yet that I’m ready to write all teenagers off on mere principle. In fact, my favorite RPG of all time is Persona 4, a game that’s mostly about getting high school kids to like you. But whereas the teens of Persona 4 are all interesting, relatable, and rational enough to spend a significant amount of time arguing over the ramifications of taking a villain’s life like people who aren’t complete sociopaths are supposed to, the Bravely Default youths are none of those things. In fact, they’re all the worst qualities of teenagers personified.

Edea may have good reason to call into question her homeland’s practice of committing atrocious war crimes and persecuting an entire religion, but she goes about railing against her parents with all the insufferably preachy rebellion of someone going through a Hot Topic phase.

Agnès is the sort of judgmental, insulated homeschooler who never stops talking about the teachings of God -- or, in this case, the no-less-important magical wind crystal. She’s also pretty selfish. Not only does she spend the first few chapters vehemently arguing with everyone, but at one point she’s given the opportunity to save the other party members from falling into a pool of lava, and when Airy -- who, remember, is fucking evil -- tells her to just leave them to die, she kind of has to think about it for a second. She saves everyone, obviously, but it’s a little too touch-and-go for someone witnessing their friends about to be boiled alive.

After a certain point, Tiz’s actions seem to be dictated less by his desire to avenge his family or prevent the world from being consumed by darkness, and more by the fact that a girl is continuing to talk to him. And considering I’ve already gone in depth about Ringabel, I’ll just reiterate that he’s human garbage.

But worst of all is the entire crew’s uniquely teenage arrogance. They have such unwavering conviction in what they’re doing, and don’t even consider the consequences of their actions until it’s far too late. Every miserably wrong decision they make turns the game’s plot into a slog, an unending march of watching these kids make the same dumb mistakes over and over while you’re powerless to stop them. This is what parents with teenagers must feel like all the time.

For all its nostalgic trappings, Bravely Default isn’t a love letter to the classic “kids save the day” games of our youth. It’s a compelling argument as to why we should never leave our continued existence up to the same age group that made "now watch me whip, now watch me nae nae" into a pop culture phenomenon.

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Aspiring writer and 2010 Penn State Triwizard Champion. Sometimes I make funny lists. more + disclosures


 


 



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